Last summer, I walked alongside my Dad as he moved through the final stage of his life. Anyone who has travelled a similar path knows how challenging this is and how it resets your view of life. During that period and since his passing, I have thought a lot about my own life and what my new understanding means for the choices I make as I move forward.
My long-standing identity is riddled with descriptors: passionate, driven, curious, intelligent. These are the attributes that I have valued and, therefore, cling to with amazing strength. But I have considered that every attribute has a partner: emotional, self-absorbed, unempathetic, arrogant. I think people are made up of both sides of any quality and the trick is to try to lean in one direction more than the other. We have to constantly stir reflection into the mix. We have to look outward and inward to consider the consequences of decisions we make in the name of “Who we are.”
So what does this have to do with anything? Well, I work in a profession undergoing monumental change. I feel pressure everyday to be all those good qualities I mentioned, in the name of helping children experience the best of themselves. I have blogged about this aspect of my work many times already. And I take a great deal of comfort knowing that when I am in the final stage of my own life, I can look back and say that there was never any doubt that I devoted much time and energy to something I believed in and cared about.
However, just like there are two sides to the qualities we hold, there are two sides to devoting ones’ life to a particular lifestyle. This is what I have been really thinking about because I see myself reflected back to me in the faces of people I talk to every day. Many people I know WORK. They pour themselves into their jobs. And when they are done, they pour themselves into their schedules. I, too, rush from thing to thing sometimes. And let’s face it -our society values this approach to work and life. I, too, have been seduced by this belief that the more we do, the harder we work, the bigger our lives are, the better we are. I have spent time and energy living by this belief and showing others that it was so. I see it all around me.
The thing is, it doesn’t work for me. It makes me unhealthy. It makes me unhappy. Because as I sat beside my Dad day after day, I realized that “driver behaviour” doesn’t matter in the end. No one is measuring our value by those criteria. No one is benefitting from continuous lists, and more being done. My children don’t benefit from being rushed all the time. I am worse in my job when I push without thinking. If it doesn’t help me and doesn’t benefit anyone else, why do it? Who am I living for anyway?
So, I am slowing down. Most importantly, I am slowing down without guilt (a work in progress). Because more isn’t better for me and my family. Because I can be great at my job and not give it my soul. Because I am better when life is slower. I feel things more deeply. I listen. I feel. I think our world might need a little more of less.